Chris Rene, Keith Squires (Monikape), and Jarret Cox (Mac Jar) met like many Santa Cruz punk kids do—while skateboarding. “We’d cause a ruckus and the cops would harass us,” recalls Rene, who attended New Brighton Middle School with Cox. But when his friend and his sister died in the same year, 16-year-old Squires turned to rap for solace.
He would invite Rene to visit his “janky” home studio to lay down beats. “At first, we’d rap about food—like bacon and cornbread,” laughs Rene. Soon the trio turned their freestyling gibberish into meticulously crafted rhymes that focused on positivity. “Growing up in Santa Cruz was all about skateboarding and going to the beach,” explains Cox. “We didn’t get into gang stuff.” The group’s appreciation for family, friends and the “Cali sunshine” is evidenced in “Thankful,” one of several club-ready bounces that features rhymes by Monikape and Mac Jar, with a chorus anchored by Rene’s smooth vocals. Their optimistic philosophy dates back to 2002 when Rene created Love Life Musik. “I had a dream when I was living in L.A.,” Rene explains. “I was in the clouds, there was a bright blue sky, and Tupac was talking to me, with ‘Thug Life’ tattooed on his stomach … A few months passed and I realized what he was saying to me: ‘No matter if you’ve been through the drug or thug life, at the end of the road, all I wanted was to love life.’ So that week I got a ‘Love Life’ tattoo.” And ever since, the three have channeled life’s challenges into inspirational lyrics. This Thursday, Mac Jar and Monikape will spread that message at The Catalyst. Asked what to expect, Squires said, “Club knockers, good dance music, and positive vibes throughout the night. Come out and love your life.”
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12. Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. $8/adv, $10/door. 423-1338. To buy Monikape & Mac Jar’s album “No Distractions,” visit iTunes or Streetlight Records. Follow all three on Twitter.